Out-of-state students attending the University of Vermont may, for the first time in UVM history, pay more than $50,000 to attend the public university next year.
New cost figures generated for the Board of Trustees show the cost of attending UVM could rise to $27,918 for in-state students and $50,310 for out-of-state students next year if the board approves a proposed 3.4 percent increase in tuition and fees.
Administration officials are quick to point out that the increase, if approved, would also come with a 6.3 percent increase in financial aid – all grant-based – awarded by the university.
Richard Cate, UVM’s vice president for finance, said the approach allows the university to make education more affordable for those who need help, even though the “sticker price” of tuition is rising.
“This is a system whereby those that can afford to pay are paying a 3.4 percent increase and those that cannot are getting aid that offsets all or a lot of that,” he said. “So it’s more of a progressive system.”
The board increased tuition and fees by the same percentage last year.
Many of the financial issues at UVM in recent years – including faculty cuts, rising tuition and budget gaps – have been at least partially blamed on the state of Vermont’s relatively weak funding of UVM and the Vermont State Colleges system. Vermont ranks is among the lowest-ranked states in the nation for per-student spending on higher education. The Legislature hasn’t increased funding in years. (A small increase budgeted for this year was rescinded as part of the state’s effort to make up for revenue shortfalls.)
Cate says state funding isn’t the only stagnant revenue stream for UVM.
“The other 44 percent of our revenue for the general fund has not grown in the last six years,” he said. “So that includes things like the state appropriation and the amount of money we get in terms of overhead on grants or other revenue streams. They’ve all been flat or gone down.”
As a result of the relatively low funding, colleges and universities have been forced to look for revenue elsewhere, including through increases in tuition.
The University of Vermont is among the most expensive public universities in the nation. According to U.S. News & World Report data from 2014, UVM was the fourth-most expensive school for out-of-state students in the academic year coming to a close this spring.
For in-state students, the university doesn’t stack up much better; according to U.S. News & World Report, UVM was the seventh-most expensive school for in-state students, charging $16,226 this year compared to a national average of $8,794.
The Vermont Cynic, UVM’s student newspaper, called attention this year to another factor that puts upward pressure on tuition for out-of-state students. The so-called “40 percent rule” is a Vermont state law that requires tuition for in-state students to be no more than 40 percent of the cost of tuition for out-of-state students.
When the decades-old law was passed, the understanding was that the state Legislature would fill the gap with state funding so that the university was getting the same amount of revenue per student. Funding hasn’t kept up, though, so in-state students generate less revenue overall compared to out-of-state students. University Provost David Rosowsky told the board’s budget committee that UVM still accepts all qualified in-state students, though the overall number of Vermont students is falling due to demographic trends in the state.
Cate is confident that the rising sticker price of the school will not make it less appealing to applicants; UVM has set records for the size of its undergraduate applicant pool for two years in a row, and Cate doesn’t see that slipping. In part, he said, the increases in aid will make the total cost of attendance at UVM more competitive with other schools.
“I think we are going to continue to drive as much as we can into financial aid to offset that difference, and that individual parents and students will take a hard look at the net cost of coming to UVM rather than what the sticker price is,” Cate said.
The UVM Board of Trustees is expected to vote on the proposed increase Saturday, Cate said.